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US urges Libya to probe Gaddafi killing The United States has urged Libya to uphold human rights and to probe a report of summary executions of Muammar Gaddafi loyalists, calling the allegations “extremely disturbing. “ The US State Department also called on Libya to respect the rights of women after Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the interim leader in the wake of the NATO-led intervention, spoke of the imposition of Islamic sharia law including polygamy. Human Rights Watch said it discovered 53 decaying bodies in Sirte at an abandoned hotel in Sirte, the site of Gaddafi’s last stand, and that some had hands bound behind their backs when they were shot. “Extremely disturbing report,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz “raised it with the Transitional National Council today and asked them to conduct a full investigation,” she said. The rebel council on Sunday declared “liberation” after the death of Gaddafi, whose own killing has been the subject of intense controversy after footage showed him bloodied but clearly alive shortly before death. Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in a speech to the nation that “any law that violates sharia is null and void” and pointed specifically to restrictions on polygamy that were imposed under Gaddafi. “We seek a democracy that meets international human rights standards, that provides a place for all Libyans and that serves to unify the country,” Nuland said. While not objecting to Islamic law in itself, Nuland said: “The number one thing is that universal human rights, rights for women, rights for minorities, right to due process, right to transparency, be fully respected.” The European Union also called on Libya to respect human rights after Jalil’s comment on sharia. Jalil has sought to reassure the West by saying that Libyans are moderate Muslims.

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Pakistani journalist investigating ISI found dead Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40, worked for an Italian news agency and an online news site registered in Hong Kong. He went missing on Sunday after he left his home in the capital to take part in a television talk show, but never arrived. Officials said his body was identified by relatives after being found near his car in Sarai Alamgir, 150km southeast of Islamabad. “Relatives visited the police station and now they have identified the dead body. They said it is the body of journalist Saleem Shahzad,” police official Zulfiqar Ali said. He disappeared two days after writing an investigative report in Asia Times Online that al-Qaeda carried out last week’s attack on a naval air base to avenge the arrest of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al-Qaeda links. ACCUSING THE ISI Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Shahzad had complained about being threatened by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. “The other day he visited our office and informed us that ISI had threatened him. He told us that if anything happened to him, we should inform the media about the situation and threats,” Hasan told AFP. “We can form an opinion after the investigation and a court verdict, but … in the past the ISI has been involved in similar incidents.” The naval base attack on May 22 took 17 hours to repel. Officials said six militants destroyed two US-made surveillance aircraft and killed 10 security personnel in the standoff. The country’s umbrella Taliban faction claimed responsibility, saying the attack was carried out to avenge the US killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which reopened questions about complicity with al-Qaeda within the military. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered an inquiry into the kidnapping and murder, pledging that the culprits would be “brought to book”. Shahzad’s Italian employer Adnkronos (AKI) confirmed the death and earlier said it feared he had been kidnapped. He was also Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times Online. In 2006, he was kidnapped by the Taliban in Helmand in southern Afghanistan. Then, his kidnappers accused him of being a spy but set him free after seven days. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had earlier on Monday expressed alarm about Shahzad’s disappearance and described as “exceedingly disturbing” reports that he might have been abducted by a state agency. Hamza Ameer, a brother-in-law of Shahzad, told AFP that his car and identification papers had also been found. Shahzad is survived by his wife and three children.

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One million told to evacuate as typhoon nears Japan More than a million people in Japan were warned to leave their homes on Tuesday as an approaching typhoon brought heavy rain and fears of landslides and flash flooding. Typhoon Roke, packing winds of up to 144 kilometres (89 miles) an hour near its centre, could land in central Japan Wednesday and move northeast, possibly towards the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the Japanese weather agency said. “While keeping its strength, the typhoon could make a land fall on Wednesday,” an official with the Japan Meteorological Agency said in a televised press conference. “We ask that the highest level of caution be used because of the heavy rain, strong wind, and high waves.” The city of Nagoya, a regional commercial hub located near the home of Toyota Motor, issued an evacuation advisory to some 1.09 million residents, because of worries that rivers might burst their banks. Nationwide, evacuation advisories have been issued to a total of 1.32 million people, national broadcaster NHK said. It was not known how many people have heeded the warning, which falls far short of a mandatory evacuation order. Water has poured into Nagoya’s subway system and underpasses, with television images showing pedestrians walking through knee-deep water and assisted by rafts operated by firefighters. The typhoon was located 200 kilometres southeast of Tanegashima island, in southern Kagoshima, as of 4:00 pm (0700 GMT), and was on course to hit Nagoya and the main island of Honshu on Wednesday, the weather agency said. The storm was then expected to move towards the disaster-ravaged Tohoku region north of Tokyo, with the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant located on its possible path. Roke was expected to move to northernmost Hokkaido by Thursday afternoon, the weather official said. “Its speed will accelerate. In similar cases in the past, we have seen strong wind and high waves occur suddenly. Rain will increase in northern Japan. We ask that people take early counter-measures,” he said. The storm has already dumped 400 millimetres (16 inches) of rain over the past 24 hours on the southern province of Miyazaki. The agency warned of downpours over a wide area of the country on Wednesday, saying as much as 50 millimetres of rain could fall in an hour. Japan was hit by Typhoon Talas earlier this month, leaving around 100 people dead or missing, mostly in the west of the country.

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Rat cyborg gets digital cerebellum An artificial cerebellum has restored lost brain function in rats, bringing the prospect of cyborg-style brain implants a step closer to reality. Such implants could eventually be used to replace areas of brain tissue damaged by stroke and other conditions, or even to enhance healthy brain function and restore learning processes that decline with age. Cochlear implants and prosthetic limbs have already proved that it is possible to wire electrical devices into the brain and make sense of them, but such devices involve only one-way communication, either from the device to the brain or vice versa. Now Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University in Israel and his colleagues have created a synthetic cerebellum which can receive sensory inputs from the brainstem – a region that acts as a conduit for neuronal information from the rest of the body. Their device can interpret these inputs, and send a signal to a different region of the brainstem that prompts motor neurons to execute the appropriate movement. “It’s proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyse it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain,” says Mintz, who presented the work this month at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK. One of the functions of the cerebellum is to help coordinate and time movements. This, and the fact that it has a relatively straightforward neuronal architecture, make it a good region of the brain to synthesise. “We know its anatomy and some of its behaviours almost perfectly,” says Mintz. The team analysed brainstem signals feeding into a real cerebellum and the output it generated in response. They then used this information to generate a synthetic version on a chip that sits outside the skull and is wired into the brain using electrodes. To test the chip, they anaesthetised a rat and disabled its cerebellum before hooking up their synthetic version. They then tried to teach the anaesthetised animal a conditioned motor reflex – a blink – by combining an auditory tone with a puff of air on the eye, until the animal blinked on hearing the tone alone. They first tried this without the chip connected, and found the rat was unable to learn the motor reflex. But once the artificial cerebellum was connected, the rat behaved as a normal animal would, learning to connect the sound with the need to blink. “This demonstrates how far we have come towards creating circuitry that could one day replace damaged brain areas and even enhance the power of the healthy brain,” says Francesco Sepulveda of the University of Essex in Colchester, UK, who was not involved in the research. “The circuitry mimics functionality that is very basic. Nonetheless, this is an exciting step towards enormous possibilities.” The next step is to model larger areas of the cerebellum that can learn a sequence of movements and test the chip in a conscious animal – a much greater challenge. “This is very demanding because of the decrease of [neural] signal quality due to artefacts caused by movement,” says Robert Prueckl of Guger Technologies in Graz, Austria, who is working with Mintz. He thinks this can be achieved, though, by developing improved software to tune out noise and better techniques for implanting the electrodes. Ultimately, the goal is to build chips that can replicate complex areas of the brain. Such implants will be vastly more complex, but Sepulveda says the challenges aren’t insurmountable. “It will likely take us several decades to get there, but my bet is that specific, well-organised brain parts such as the hippocampus or the visual cortex will have synthetic correlates before the end of the century.”

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‘Hactivists back after FBI arrests’ After a brief hiatus and an FBI takedown of several alleged ‘hacktivists,’ two groups that have claimed responsibility for a recent wave of cyber vandalism say they are back. A statement was posted online on Thursday jointly by the groups, Anonymous and Lulz Security, after U.S. authorities arrested 16 people earlier this week for several attacks, most prominently Anonymous’ attempt to cripple eBay’s PayPal site after it stopped accepting donations to the WikiLeaks organization. The arrests allowed a peek into the lives of those alleged to be hacker-activists — cyber-criminals who shut down or break into computer systems to make political points or defy authority, rather than to steal credit card numbers or commit espionage. Some did not seem to have sophisticated technology-oriented jobs. The group included a former janitor, a landscape foreman and a college student, ranging in age from 20 to 42. “We are not scared any more. Your threats to arrest us are meaningless to us as you cannot arrest an idea,” the hacker groups said in the statement, which could not be independently verified. Lulz Security had previously suggested it was disbanding. The groups said their statement was a response to comments by Steven Chabinsky, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, who told National Public Radio it was “entirely unacceptable to break into websites and commit unlawful acts.” The groups promised to continue attacks on governments, which they accused of lying to their citizens and inducing fear and terror by “dismantling their freedom piece by piece.” They also said they would focus on companies as well for working with governments and taking billions of dollars in contracts, but failing to deliver. “These governments and corporations are our enemy. And we will continue to fight them, with all methods we have at our disposal, and that certainly includes breaking into their websites and exposing their lies,” the statement said. The FBI declined to comment. Anonymous and LulzSec also have claimed responsibility for attacking websites in Syria, Tunisia, Egypt and India for political reasons, as well as the public websites of the CIA and the Senate. ARRESTS AROUND THE COUNTRY The response came after FBI agents arrested more than a dozen people in nine states and the District of Columbia on charges they participated in cyber attacks on corporate and government websites. According to the indictment, Mercedes Haefer said on her Facebook page she was a college student in Las Vegas working multiple jobs. She also went by “No” and “MMMM” when she allegedly helped with the attack on PayPal last year. During her initial appearance earlier this week in federal court, a judge ordered her to stay off any computers except for her pizza job, and to surrender her laptop computer, according to court records. Her public defender was not available for comment. Vincent Kershaw, 27, who has a day job as a foreman for a Colorado landscaping company, is accused of using the pseudonyms Reaper, Trivette and Triv to participate in the attacks. His public defender declined to comment. The indictment accused them of using a program dubbed “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” — a name that harks back to a video game and a Star Wars movie — to send huge amounts of data to PayPal in a bid to overwhelm it and render it unavailable for legitimate requests. Scott Arciszewski, 21, a University of Central Florida student and former janitor, was arrested for a separate cyber attack, allegedly uploading malicious files to the website of Tampa Bay InfraGard, an FBI-sponsored group. He then informed LulzSec about the vulnerability, according to court papers. His public defender was also not available for comment. The question remains whether the charges of conspiracy and trying to damage a protected computer as well as the related potential prison sentences of up to five and 10 years respectively, will serve as an adequate deterrent. One cybersecurity expert raised the possibility that the PayPal attack was “just a bunch of kids” messing around, particularly since the threshold to participate was low. “So many people spend so much time online now, the threshold to becoming a political activist has dropped to close to zero,” said James Lewis, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. “If we’re lucky the arrests send a signal that will tamp down on this kind of thing, but if there’s some deeper underlying tension that’s driving people to do this or some other external cause we’re just going to see more of this,” he said.

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